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Strike! The Covington Pioneer

Settled in the Allegheny Mountains midway between Lexington and White Sulphur Springs, Covington is Virginia’s third smallest city with just under 6,000 residents. Today, the newspaper of record there is the Virginian Review, a direct successor of the Covington Virginian, which ran from 1914 until the name changed in 1988. While the Virginian, in some iteration, has been Covington’s newspaper for over 100 years, in April 1981 a competing newspaper made its debut:

Pioneer (1) Issue 1Published from April 16, 1981 until July 18, 1982 the Covington Pioneer, a self-described “strike paper,” was the result of an unwavering effort by sixteen members of Roanoke Typographical Union No. 60 to negotiate better pay with their former employer, the Covington Virginian.

Pioneer Attention Apr. 16, 1981In its introductory issue, the Pioneer clearly laid out its intent: “With this edition of the PIONEER a new paper is on the scene in Covington. . .the PIONEER is a creature of a labor dispute.” The aim of the Pioneer was to pull revenue away from the Virginian to leverage bargaining power for striking employees. “The PIONEER is a strike paper,” the column continued,” It has no purpose beyond the terms of the Union’s negotiations. As soon as a fair contract is settled the PIONEER will cease to publish and go out of business.”

Several of the Pioneer’s writers offered editorial pieces in its first issue explaining their decision to strike. Emory W. Brackman, former sports editor of the Covington Virginian, wrote, “I had always vowed that I would never be involved in a strike, but the Covington Virginian changed that. I have never seen people treated so unfairly. We have been forced into our current situation by the Virginian because. . .they do not believe in paying honest wages to their employees.”

During its fifteen-month run, the read more »

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